On December 21st each year in Baltimore and other major cities around the United States memorial services are held to honor the names and celebrate the memories of the men and women who have passed away while experiencing homelessness in the past year.
This year I attended the memorial service in Baltimore held in the Inner Harbor Amphitheater. Here gathered a group of people currently experiencing homelessness, advocacy groups, non-profit representatives, formerly homeless individuals, and random passersby on a chilly winter night. The event is held on December 21st each year as this is the first day of winter and the longest night of the year. It marks the beginning of a particularly rough season for one without shelter.
There were 87 names read at the memorial service of those lost in Baltimore this year that were known by homeless service providers to have experienced homelessness. Speckled throughout the reading of the names, stories about those who were lost were told to give the attendees a sense of who these people were and the affect their lives had on those around them. Songs were song, candles were lit in the shoes of those lost, and a prayer was offered as well to make for a moving and thoughtful service. The service really put a human face on the serious and life threatening issue of homelessness.
As the harshness of winter sets in the issue of homelessness always seems to gain more attention. A recent article in the Washington Post by Nathan Rott told the story of one man, Eric Sheptock, who is working to advocate for people experiencing homelessness, while remaining homeless himself.
The article brings up a thought-provoking viewpoint into the influence that social media is having for organizing around all types of issues. While Eric Sheptock is experiencing homelessness he still has access to the internet at libraries and shelters and utilizes Facebook and Twitter as means for advocating and organizing for people experiencing homelessness’ rights. This is a story that really speaks to the power that social media has for organizing with little means or resources. To read the full article about Eric Sheptock click here.
The Homeless Person’s Memorial Day Service and the online advocacy that Sheptock does are different strategies to advocate for people experiencing homelessness but both point to the importance of reaching people to support services, education and advocacy to make homelessness an increasingly rare and fleeting occurrence.
Upon leaving the Homeless Persons Memorial Service I felt so cold from sitting out in the winter chill on a cement seat for over an hour. I cannot imagine how people survive all night, every night out on the streets. Those that do not survive truly do need to be honored and remembered for enduring a life that few of us can even imagine.
– Posted by Andrea Smid, Project Specialist